Lisbon to Tehran by land – October 2017

Lisbon to Tehran by land. I will travel through 21 countries only by land. I'll start in Portugal and finish the journey 3 months later in Tehran, the capital city of Iran.

From October 2017 I will travel from Lisbon to Tehran, only by land.  I will visit and photograph the following 21 countries on this journey;

  • Portugal – Lisbon and Porto
  • Spain – A Coruña, Santander, Bilbao
  • France – Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseille, Nice
  • Monaco – Monte Carlo
  • Italy – Milan, Genoa, Pisa, Bologna, Florence, Venice
  • San Marino – San Marino
  • Slovenia – Ljubljana
  • Croatia – Zagreb, Dubrovnik
  • Serbia – Novi Sad, Belgrade
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sarajevo
  • Montenegro – Podgorica
  • Kosovo – Prishtina
  • Macedonia – Skopje
  • Albania – Tirana
  • Greece – Athens
  • Bulgaria – Sofia
  • Turkey – Istanbul, Ankara, Sivas, Erzurum
  • Georgia – Tbilisi
  • Azerbaijan – Ganja
  • Armenia – Yerevan
  • Iran – Tehran, Shiraz

I will travel through all these countries, only by land.  There could be some difficulty on obtaining my Iranian visa, for this reason I will apply and hopefully receive the visa in London before leaving to Lisbon.  The Iranian visa will be valid for 3 months so this will put a time limit on my journey, I’ll have to travel from Lisbon to Tehran in less than than 3 months.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

The reason I chose Lisbon for the starting point to my journey is because just west of Lisbon is the most western point of continental Europe, Cabo da Roca.  Being the most western point of Europe and the fact that I am traveling east makes Cabo da Roca / Lisbon the perfect starting point for my overland journey.

Santander, Spain

Santander, Spain

I have visited Santander before and I’ll visit again after traveling north from Lisbon through Porto and A Coruña.  I’ll then head onto Bilbao before traveling through Southern France and stopping off in the cities of Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseille and Nice.  After Nice I’ll pass through Monte Carlo in Monaco.

Travel in Europe, only by land

Travel in Europe, only by land

On my journey east through Europe to the Middle East I will travel only by land.  I will travel mainly by bus as I prefer this to train travel.

After France I will travel through Northern Italy and San Marino.  I have had the cities of Florence and Venice on my bucket list for a long time as well as seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  San Marino is a country I’ve never visited so will stay overnight and add it to my list of countries visited.

After Italy I will visit the former Yugoslav states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia before entering Greece.  I must confess I know very little about the former Yugolsav states but I do know there are quite a few UNESCO sites throughout them.

In Greece there are 2 things on my bucket list, Acropolis and Santorini.  I will definitely visit Athens and the Acropolis, I am hoping there is a winter ferry service between Athens and the Island of Santorini so I can visit and photograph the Instagammable Island.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

From Athens, Greece I will take a bus to Sofia, Bulgaria.  Ever since visiting the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Estonia (above), I have wanted to visit the cathedral of the same name in Sofia.  From Sofia I will take the night train to Istanbul, Turkey.  There are 2 places on my bucket list in Turkey, Istanbul and Cappadocia, anything else I see in Turkey will be a bonus.

From Turkey I will visit the countries of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia before passing through to my final destination, Tehran, Iran.  Hopefully I will have reached the Iranian border before my visa expires.  In Iran the place I really want to visit, my bucket list item, is the Pink Mosque in Shiraz.

Lisbon to Tehran by land

Lisbon to Tehran by land

As this is a plan, I can still change it.  Have I missed any important cities / sites in any country?  Am I passing through your country?  Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for this trip?  Please share them in the comments below.

66 Comments

  1. Lizzie June 10, 2017 at 3:20 am - Reply

    Sounds an amazing trip and I will be interested to know how the Iranian visa works out as its a country high on my bucket list. Although you prefer bus check out the train Sarajevo to Mostar that has reopened this week, supposed to be one of the best train journeys in Europe and I hope to check it out soon. From Mostar take bus to Podgorica or go via Kotor if you have time, its gorgeous.

    • James Smith June 10, 2017 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Thanks for your suggestions Lizzie, that’s exactly why I wrote this post. I will definitely take the train from Sarajevo to Mostar, if it’s one of the best train journeys in Europe then I cannot miss it! I’ll update my post now to include Kotor on my trip, it looks very Instagrammable!

  2. Kevan June 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    I been on quite a few road trips, and long ones, but never one through 21 countries! This sounds like an amazing once in a lifetime trip. I haven’t been to a lot of the places you will be visiting, but I have been to Florence and absolutely loved it. Good luck with the visa and look forward to reading the posts from your trip.

  3. yukti June 11, 2017 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    Amazing trip with beautiful countries in the list. Some I have seen and some not. My favorites are Georgia(tbilisi) and Greece(Athens). Best of Luck for your visa and future trip. Eagerly awaiting for your tips, pictures and blog posts on these travel. Travelling in Europe through road is wonderful experience.

  4. Claire Summers June 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Wow, this looks like an incredible journey you have planned! How will you travel? Bus and train? Or will you self-drive. All looks very exciting. I can’t wait to see your pictures and hear more about your adventure!

  5. Mimi & Mitch June 11, 2017 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Wow that is such an interesting journey, really can’t wait to follow it! To our list we want to see Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iran asap! 3 months sounds about right and not too long, just perfect time!

  6. Kim June 12, 2017 at 12:59 am - Reply

    This sounds like an epic trip! I hope you are able to obtain your Iranian visa without any issues. I’ve never been to Europe or the Middle East, but traveling across it by land / by bus in particular sounds exciting. Best of luck on your journey, can’t wait to see your posts about it.

  7. Indrani June 12, 2017 at 4:15 am - Reply

    This is going to be an epic journey covering 21 countries that too by road! I have done 5 of these the remaining 16 are very much in my list. Hope your visa to Iran comes through in time and you enjoy the trip.
    All the best, travel safe!

  8. Nicole Anderson June 12, 2017 at 5:37 am - Reply

    This is an incredible plan and it is a shame that you must do it all within 3 months because of the visa issue. I only say that because travelling itself will take up so much time, limiting your time on the ground to experience and enjoy. Nevertheless it will undoubtedly be something you will be able to tell your grandchildren about! At least being a good photographer you will have a permanent reminder of this significant trip. All the best – I can’t wait to follow your progress via future posts.

  9. Dominic June 12, 2017 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Wow – that is one heck of a roadtrip! Hopefully you will be able to get your paperwork all sorted before your departure. Looking forward to seeing how your adventure unfolds.

  10. wendy maes June 12, 2017 at 7:55 am - Reply

    I think you will have an amazing trip. You saved the best for last. Iran is so great!

  11. Iza Abao June 12, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

    You should probably consider writing a book while you are going to this journey. I have not met someone who has attempted what you will be doing. I am eager to read your upcoming blog posts about every place that you will visit. You will be going to places that I also want to visit someday. Please share what you will bring during your journeys like travel gears and gadgets. I am curious because you travel mostly via bus. Best of luck to you!

  12. Anete June 12, 2017 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Sounds awesome! Good luck and may everything go as planned! But I’m sure you will have many amazing unexpected adventures along the way! Such a good idea. Looking forward to read more about your journey.

  13. Lena June 12, 2017 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    Sounds like an exciting trip you are going to take ! I haven’t been to most of the cities, so I don’t have any good advice. Looking forward for your pictures and travel tips 🙂

  14. Monica June 12, 2017 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    James well that’s like a super plan. I got extremely thrilled when I read your list. I can imagine how much planning is required. Well I am in my one month Europe trip and traveling mainly by road – flix bus but would like to share that my plan went out of the window after 10 days as I wanted to make do many changes to the route that I had charted as I found many beautiful hidden gems where I wanted to stay longer. All the best for your trip and do keep us posted.

  15. Milijana June 12, 2017 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Hallo from Zagreb, Croatia. Glad to find you have put Croatia on your itinerary. If you need some info or help with travelling the Balkans, please let me know. Keeping my fingers crossed for you and your upcoming amazing trip, good luck!

  16. Jean June 12, 2017 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    What an epic adventure you’re going to have! I can’t wait to follow along and see how much fun You havr. I can’t afford to join you so I’ll just have to cyber stalk

  17. Danik June 12, 2017 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Loving the idea of this trip and can’t wait to follow your progress. Hope the Iran visa process goes well 🙂

  18. Chryssie June 12, 2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Sounds like such an amazing trip! Just wanted to suggest you check out Alpaca Maps (www.alpacamaps.com) – I noticed you’ve already done a map, but Alpaca lets you create an interactive map of your travels which you can embed on your blog and add photos, points of interest, notes, music, video and several modes of travel.

    Let me know if this sounds like something you might like to do or you need any help!

  19. Cat June 13, 2017 at 12:48 am - Reply

    That’s an exciting adventure! I was in Europe last month for the first time and I love it! Can’t wait to see your adventure in Lisbon and making your way to the east. Wish you good luck with your visa to Iran!

  20. Lorena June 13, 2017 at 7:01 am - Reply

    So cool what you did road trips are the best you have the chance to enjoy much better the way, love your pictures!!

  21. Ali May June 13, 2017 at 7:49 am - Reply

    This trip sounds epic! I applaud your passion for bus travel (I personally would prefer to mix things up between train and bus). You really should write a book about this journey. I imagine that not too many people have completed this route in the time frame you are doing it. I hope you get time to visit lots of UNESCO sites in Yugoslavia. I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this journey!

  22. Pericles Rosa June 13, 2017 at 9:08 am - Reply

    I hope everything goes well James.
    What an epic journey you are taking from Lisbon to Tehran!!
    Such a pity that your Iranian visa is only valid for three months and you’ll have to hurry to get there on time.
    I’m sure you’ll enjoy passing through the Yugoslav States, I’ve not read much about these so looking forward to seeing your pictures.

  23. Aleney de Winter June 13, 2017 at 11:20 am - Reply

    What an epic trip. I’m super keen to hear how you go with your Iranian visa. It is a place I’ve hear amazing things baout

  24. We totally love the fact that you are only traveling by land. What is the appeal of this for you? Make sure you go and visit the mountains in Macedonia, some really cool walks that everyone would enjoy. I cant wait to see your Iran pictures from Shiraz!

  25. Jitaditya Narzary June 14, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Amazing plan. I wish I could to that too. I detest the very sensation of flying. So, if I have to visit these countries, I must follow your example. Hope to see detailed reports once you do it.

  26. Christie June 14, 2017 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Wow that sounds like quite the adventure!! All of the places I have been in that list I absolutely loved. And many I have not been to so I can’t wait to hear about them. Good luck on your voyage!

  27. Samantha June 16, 2017 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Wow what a great adventure you will have!! Although I have visited a few of those place, I would love to go on a big Euro road trip one day and look forward to hearing about it!

  28. Afrika June 16, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Wow! You look like you are going to have one heck of an exciting journey. All the best. I also wanted to find out, do you ever get back aches due to traveling long hours via road and how do you deal with it?

    • James Smith June 16, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply

      I don’t get back aches but I do get knee aches. I try to keep my legs stretched as much as possible whilst traveling to avoid this.

  29. Bob R June 16, 2017 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Cool – drop a line when you’re passing through Ljubljana, happy to meet up for a drink or meal and quick stroll/tour around town. Best of luck!

    • James Smith June 18, 2017 at 10:04 am - Reply

      Thanks Bob, I will do!

  30. Mandy June 16, 2017 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    What a cool journey you are about to take! Our favorite method of transport through Europe is the bus; we don’t have the double decker ones in our country so I’d love to travel on one of these. If we ever go around Europe via the road, we’re gonna ride on the second deck of that bus. Hehehe! I look forward to seeing pictures of your journey, especially those from countries not often visited such as Albania and Kosovo.

  31. The Untourists June 17, 2017 at 1:46 am - Reply

    Wow! That is some cool trip! I am looking forward to reading it in details! How long for the paperwork?

    • James Smith June 17, 2017 at 7:16 am - Reply

      I have to organize my Iran visa so it’s ready to pick up at the start of October so I’ll apply in September.

  32. sophie June 17, 2017 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Woha! This is a great route and I hope it’s gonna be a great fun,too! I have never tried it via road but this looks total fun! 🙂

  33. Michael - The Boys Abroad June 17, 2017 at 5:21 am - Reply

    This looks like an epic trip! 🙂

    I’d definitely try and get out of central Milan and visit Lake Como. I lived there for a year during a student exchange and think its the most beautiful part of Italy!

    Interesting that you prefer busses to trains, why is that? I’ve always heard trains are faster and more efficient?

    • James Smith June 17, 2017 at 7:15 am - Reply

      I think I prefer buses because I started traveling in South America and I’m accustomed to bus travel. Yes, the train is faster, smoother and more convenient for the bathroom etc.. I’ll check out Lake Como, thanks for the tip!

  34. Trippin' Turpins (Kelly) June 17, 2017 at 5:21 am - Reply

    Sounds like it is going to be a fabulous trip. I have never been anywhere in Europe so I have no tips or information to share with you. I look forward to hearing all about this trip later int eh year.

  35. Midori June 17, 2017 at 8:13 am - Reply

    CRA-ZY!!!!! Lisbon is one of my favorite cities in the world! sooo beautiful! I think you can now apply for your iranian visa in iran itself, right? You can pass through the north of spain without visiting my beuatiful hometown San Sebastian!!!!

    • James Smith June 17, 2017 at 11:16 am - Reply

      I think if you fly into Iran you can get a visa on arrival but at the border you need a visa in advance. San Sebastian is on my route so I’ll definitely stop by, thanks for the recommendation Midori.

  36. Julz June 18, 2017 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Such an amazing trip and adventure. Eat Socca in the vieux nice – it’s the speciality there 🙂 it’s a huge chickpea kinda-pancake. It is the Street food by excellence. If you enter the view nice from 3/4 up the top (middle of cours Massena) you have to walk down a few stairs, there is a vendor there – can’t remember the name, but sure he is still there. it’s yum! 🙂 Looking forward reading about your adventure!

    • James Smith June 18, 2017 at 8:39 am - Reply

      Thanks Julz I’ll check this food out in Nice, hopefully get a good picture of it!

  37. Angie (FeetDoTravel) June 18, 2017 at 3:02 am - Reply

    This is going to be an epic trip! So much culture to experience, I love it! The visas will be interesting that’s for sure 😀 Looking forward to reading your blog posts of your adventure, I know there are people in our Feet Do Travel group who have been to some of the former Yugoslav states so don’t forget to ask any questions you may have 😀 #feetdotravel

    • James Smith June 18, 2017 at 10:05 am - Reply

      Thanks Angie, I’ll do that.

  38. divsi June 18, 2017 at 3:47 am - Reply

    This sounds amazing!!!! I cannot wait to read your updates and stories. Doing it by land makes it all the more exciting. So many destinations, so many different cultures and so many stories. All the best James! Looking forward to reading your blogs.

  39. Ariane June 18, 2017 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Wow, what a great travel plan! I have to admit, I am a bit jealous 😉 I will definitely try to follow your travel adventures and progression. I cross fingers for your Iranian visa as well! Cheers and happy travelling!

  40. Anna June 18, 2017 at 10:26 am - Reply

    You must be busy planning your trip! I look forward to read all about it & all the best. I loved some places you are going although by land is a different but hope it all he great adventure 🙂

  41. Niranjana June 18, 2017 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Lisbon to Tehran is a long way in a plane, so by land it’s an incredible journey! How nice of a trip it will be, I would love to do this. You have such a lot to organize, I hope your overland trip goes well.

  42. Hatton June 19, 2017 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Lisbon to Tehran by land sounds like an incredible itinerary!

  43. Kate Storm June 19, 2017 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    What an incredible trip! I’m sure you’ll have an amazing adventure.

  44. Travel Lexx June 19, 2017 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Incredible plan and some really awesome places on your list! It’s going to be an amazing trip! Definitely head to Kotor – Montenegro is a fantastic country.Hope your visa is fine! Look forward to reading about it

  45. Alice June 20, 2017 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Love your list! Good luck and have a safe trip!

  46. Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) June 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    What an amazing trip your have scheduled. Looking forward to read about your adventures along the way. You will not be traveling through my city or country so I am looking for some travel tips. 🙂 #feetdotravel

  47. Scarlett Begonias June 21, 2017 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    I can’t wait to follow along, this is going to be an incredible journey 🙂

  48. Sara - I do what I want to June 22, 2017 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    You can get your Iranian visa on arrival (of course it can be deny but I don’t think there’ll be much trouble by land), take your time in all those places and get as long as you can in Iran. It is not only a welcoming country but there is so much to see, I wish we could go back soon!

  49. Russian Vacation June 23, 2017 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Unbelievable Trip! It’s hard to imagine a more impressive journey. Welcome to Russia here is many more miles you should discover.

  50. tracy collins June 25, 2017 at 7:21 am - Reply

    Oh wow what an amazing trip!!!!! Jealous I have to say!!!!! Croatia is a amazing as is Slovenia. Try to get to Lake Bled – stunning. Also in Montenegro Kotor is a must see (UNESCO site too) Have a fantastic time and can’t wait to read all about your adventures!! #feetdotravel

  51. Garth June 27, 2017 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    What an incredible trip you’ve got planned!! I will look forward to reading about your adventures along the way. I would love to see Cappadocia, seen so many beautiful photos! I don’t know anything about Armenia, Georgia or Azerbaijan, but they fascinate me as they are so little reported on, look forward to hearing and seeing your photos.

  52. Pete July 4, 2017 at 1:11 am - Reply

    Been to Cabo del Roca. And the Pink Mosque in Shiraz. Both places well worth visiting. It’s quite a way from the border to Tehran, and even more down to Shiraz.

    Take a look at the bazaar in Tabriz. Ancient, sprawling, fascinating. The Azerbaijan Museum is also good for the statuary in the basement, if nothing else! Kandovan and its cave dwellers worth a look, though a little touristy. Some old domes and mosques on the way down to Tehran.

    Don’t drive in Tehran!

    Get a tour, if you can, see some of the murals, especially near the old American Embassy. The museums are good; I preferred the “modern” one, full of gorgeous Islamic artwork. Tiles, carpets, pottery, glassware, all exquisite.

    Again, a lot to see on the way to Shiraz. If you do nothing else, stop in Esfahan for those glorious mosques on the grand square. And the bridges, well worth photographing after dark.

    Short of Shiraz is Persepolis, and Pasargadae. Persepolis is grander and more famous, and both are vital to understanding Persian history.

    Shiraz has a good bazaar, an old fortress with a leaning tower, and that pink mosque full of people catching the stained glass glow all morning.

    Give you joy of your travels!

    • James Smith July 4, 2017 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Thanks for the advice Pete, that’s exactly why I wrote this post. I’ll definitely add Tabriz and Esfahan to my itinerary. The Persepolis outside Shiraz looks like a good day trip too. Thanks again.

  53. Ted July 8, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Looks like quite a trip you’ve planned there. 3 months sounds a bit tight though, could the Iranian Embassy give you a “flexible” visa, say any time within 3-6 months?

  54. Abhinav Singh July 9, 2017 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Wow, I didn’t know Lisbon to Tehran is possible via road. 21 countries sound amazing. Croatia attracts me the most of those. Wish you all the best. I am sure you can’t wait till October. Cheers!

  55. Raymond Carroll July 27, 2017 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a great adventure is on the cards, James – lucky you! You’ve been on so many great trips and this one – for sure – sounds like a cracker! Great read – thanks for sharing!

  56. Wilbur August 28, 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    An epic trip visiting loads of magic places. You will love it all I am sure. Iran will be a definite highlight (never been but would love to) – of your list they are all great but I would plump for Yerevan & Tbilisi as tops – make sure you get out into the countryside too as easy side trips from the capitals. Good luck with it all! Wilbur.

  57. David from Travelodium September 28, 2017 at 12:14 am - Reply

    Wow you prefer travelling by bus to train that’s unusual. I travelled from Adelaide to Darwin by bus (3200km) and I never want to get on a bus again and I very rarely have.

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